I am mainly known as a painter, but I have been working with polymer clay both in my mixed media paintings and making jewellery for about 8 years.
When I first discovered polymer clay it did not take me long to get hooked. The subtle and vibrant colour possibilities were the first qualities to attract me, and then the ability to make endless textures and geometric patterns. The colours you see in the jewellery and other pieces are made by mixing and blending the clay, they are not painted on.
Colour is my main expressive element in my painting, and in life I consider it to be one of the most precious gifts the world of the senses offers to us. So naturally I use this possibility in this versatile material.
Most of my polymer pieces are one of a kind, and I aim to create unique, affordable pieces for people who enjoy handcrafted works as a change from mass produced items.
There are so many ways of using it, and I am particularly interested in a technique known as ‘kaleidoscope caning’. Not many who use polymer clay are trained in this, it is a very labour intensive process.
The raw clay first has to be conditioned and rolled to the appropriate thickness; colours are then mixed and individual canes made. These are then combined to make a ‘master cane’ and then precise geometric measuring methods are used to create one off designs of cabochons or veneers. These are then baked, often several times, and combined to make the finished pieces. Finally everything is sanded and buffed and protected with archival microcrystalline wax.
Creative play and exploration of the medium are also very important aspects of the making process for me. There is always something new to discover.
See below if you are interested in the history of polymer clay.
My training and background
I was born and grew up in Glasgow but my family moved south when I was in my teens. I trained at Harrow and Norwich schools of Art. I have a degree in fine art painting and a postgraduate teaching degree from Leicester University. As well as my own practice as a painter and maker of polymer clay jewellery, I run classes in painting, drawing and colour from my own studio in Lockerbie and various other venues. I have taught in schools and art colleges, and for over 20 years I was a tutor of drawing and colour at the Royal College of Art in London. I exhibit my work regularly and have been part of the Spring Fling Open Studio event for 20 years and have shown my polymer clay works there for the last seven.
About polymer clay
Polymer clay has been around for about 50 years and was originally developed for doll making. You might have heard of it as ‘Fimo’, which your children played with. Nowadays, as well as Fimo, there are more than a dozen varieties of this oven hardening clay. Professionals who work with it choose on the basis of various qualities of firmness, fineness of texture and so on. Which you use, depends on what you want to do with it. Polymer clay is now a recognised fine art/craft medium and is widely known and used in the USA and the rest of Europe. However, in the UK it is still slowly emerging from its humble beginnings as a child’s modelling material.
Since 2015 Craft Scotland included works made with polymer clay in its show at the prestigious SOFA ( Sculptural Objects, Functional Art) show in Chicago. And for some years at VAS at the RSA shows in Edinburgh it was also in evidence. So, it is slowly emerging from its hiding place.
To quote the name of a BBC radio programme, it is “Plastic fantastic’” and uses a version of this ubiquitous (and essential, in modern life) material to make things of beauty to counter the throwaway culture of single use plastic which is doing so much environmental damage.